02/17/2011 4:36PM

Taptam facing solid opposition in Bayakoa at Oaklawn

Jeff Coady/Coady Photography
Taptam, Cliff Berry up, wins the Star of Texas.

HOT SPRINGS, Ark. – When last seen at Oaklawn Park, Taptam was being overtaken in the late stages of a stakes. But her second-place finish was hardly a disgrace. Taptam was run down in the Grade 1, $500,000 Apple Blossom by Zenyatta, the mare who by year’s end would be crowned Horse of the Year.

Taptam won’t have to deal with that one Saturday in the $100,000 Bayakoa, but she does face a strong cast of fillies and mares in the 1 1/16-mile race that serves as a stepping-stone to this year’s Apple Blossom. Satans Quick Chick, winner of the $75,000 Pippin last month at Oakawn, has shipped back into town from Kentucky. Be Fair, who was third in last year’s Apple Blossom, will be making her seasonal debut. And so will Seeking the Title, who was third in the Grade 1 Gazelle at Aqueduct in her last start Nov. 27.

Taptam comes into the test in top form. She defeated males last month in the $100,000 Star of Texas at 1 1/16 miles at Sam Houston Race Park. It was her first start in four months, and during that period she had been offered at auction at Fasig-Tipton in November but did not sell with a high bid of $225,000.

“Conditioning-wise I was concerned, coming off the layoff and getting ready to go two turns,” said Bret Calhoun, who trains Taptam for Wayne Sanders and Larry Hirsch. “I was very happy with the effort. I thought she ran a monster race. She just took control early and dictated the race and just drew off.”

Taptam won by 4 1/4 lengths, to earn one of her best career Beyer Figures, a 92. She also has been flattered since the Texas-bred stakes, as the runner-up, Quiet Again, came back last weekend to win the $50,000 Curribot at Sunland Park.

As for Taptam, she had long been targeted for the Bayakoa, in part because of her record at Oaklawn. She is 3 for 7 over the local strip, among her wins last year’s Pippin. Cliff Berry, who was aboard Taptam in the Star of Texas, has the mount Saturday.

“I thought it was a great comeback race last time and hopefully, she’ll move forward off of that,” said Calhoun.

She’s All In will remove blinkers for the Bayakoa. She had to alter course late in the Pippin, and re-rallied up the rail to finish second by three-quarters of a length.

“The horses coming down the lane, they squeezed her out,” said Donnie Von Hemel, who trains She’s All In. “She was in the middle, and then she came back and beat those two, but it cost her momentum.”

Luis Quinonez has the mount from post 3.